Flaky Goodness

I Don’t Trust Parental Controls

May 29, 2024

If you are the parent of a young gamer, consider opting out of any platform parental controls and doing parental controls the old-fashioned way: keeping an eye on what your child is playing and with whom.

This may not be something you’re able to consistently do, and every parent has to make their own careful choices about how to help their child manage their use of technology. I don’t want to diminish the risks or the stakes. For us, our home is small enough and we’re around enough that we tend to always be aware of what’s going on with the TV/computers/tablets/consoles anyway.

When our son was younger we dutifully enrolled him in the various platform-provided family management/parental controls programs offered by Nintendo, Apple, Sony, and Microsoft. As he gets older and we want to reduce or remove those restrictions things are turning into a big mess. The parental controls interfaces are invariably complex, buggy, and inconsistent. Rules vary from platform to platform and this is further complicated by account linking between platforms. I now have multiple support issues open with several platform providers and online game developers because my son stopped having access to in-game voice and text chat in one of his main games. This is after submitting a copy of his passport to prove his date of birth, which I was extremely reluctant to do for privacy reasons.

If I had to do it all again, I would have created those accounts from day 1 with no parental controls, age set to 18 years old, and just tried to stay on top of things so that he made good choices and steered clear of the online risks as best he could.

Is this trading safety for convenience? Maybe, but consider how much safety you’re actually getting here and whether it can be obtained in a different way.